MR spectroscopy in neurodegenerative disease

Mol Imaging Biol. Jul-Aug 2007;9(4):196-203. doi: 10.1007/s11307-007-0087-2.


Unlike traditional, tracer-based methods of molecular imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) is based on the behavior of specific nuclei within a magnetic field and the general principle that the resonant frequency depends on the nucleus' immediate chemical environment. Most clinical MRS research has concentrated on the metabolites visible with proton spectroscopy and measured in specified tissue volumes in the brain. This methodology has been applied in various neurodegenerative disorders, most frequently utilizing measures of N-acetylaspartate as a neuronal marker. At short echo times, additional compounds can be quantified, including myo-inositol, a putative marker for neuroglia, the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and its metabolic counterpart glutamine, and the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. 31P-MRS can be used to study high-energy phosphate metabolites, providing an in vivo assessment of tissue bioenergetic status. This review discusses the application of these techniques to patients with neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Isotopes
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnosis
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular / methods*


  • Isotopes